With an aim to help make islands more self-sufficient, prosperous and sustainable, the European Union has recently launched its Clean Energy for EU Islands project. Twenty-six islands across 10 European nations have been selected due to their potential to successfully establish a high-quality energy transition and as a result of their varying geographical locations. The progress made on these islands will be used as the blueprint for future development of the other 22,000 inhabited islands that are part of the EU as well as help shape policy on the mainland. Additionally, the Clean Energy for EU Islands project is sure to also serve as an example to other island-nations throughout the world looking to become more sustainable.
hase one of the project will see the first six islands – the Aran Islands (Ireland), Cres-Lošinj (Croatia), Sifnos (Greece), Culatra (Portugal), Salina (Italy) and La Palma (Spain) – develop their energy transition plan by the summer of 2019. The remaining twenty will be tasked with publishing their own plans in 2020. The transition framework will be crafted by the local authorities with
from the Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat and will work towards the Union’s
to provide clean energy for all Europeans.
Dominique Ristori, Director-General for Energy at the European Commission, said: “The 26 islands selected display a remarkable potential and enthusiasm for developing strong and lasting multi-stakeholder collaborations around the clean energy transition. By embarking on this path, not only will they become more energy self-reliant and prosperous, but also provide inspiring examples for other islands and Europe as a whole. This, in turn, will help the EU achieve its ambitious climate and energy targets.”
Islands Leading Innovation
With a general goal of reducing carbon emissions as well as their reliance on fossil fuels and implementing renewable energy, these islands will be leading innovation in self-sufficiency and sustainable development. Croatian MEP Tonino Picula has lauded the project as a step in the right direction, saying: “Islands are becoming more and more visible on the European agenda. The support for 26 islands throughout the Union is an important step in making island communities torchbearers in clean energy transition. This is a first, but an important, step in securing permanent EU assistance to islands.”
The bottom-up approach of the transition will ensure that islanders’ needs will be accounted for, and will benefit residents and local businesses alike. Similar projects carried out independently have shown
. The island of Samsø in Denmark was able to become carbon negative in just a decade, its success owing to all 4,000 inhabitants buying into the transition. Initial plans from the islands have shown their willingness to innovate, Spain’s Balearic islands have planned to
fossil-fueled cars in favor of electric ones, with similar moves towards renewable-driven public transport announced in
Camille Dressler, Chair of the European Small Islands Network and the Scottish Islands Federation welcomed the inclusion of the Scottish Islands, and especially the very isolated off-grid islands of Foula and Fair Isle in Shetland saying that “this choice shows the Scottish Islands are recognised for their fantastic renewable energy potential and expertise. There are exciting developments using hydrogen for district heating in Orkney for example that could be easily replicable elsewhere.”
Barriers To Change
One of the more ambitious projects has created some friction with some industry leaders. The local government of the Balearic Islands announced plans to transition away from its coal power plant towards clean energy by 2050 as well as enacting laws phasing out diesel vehicles by 2025 and their gasoline counterparts by 2035 in favor of electric cars. Whilst the power plant’s Italian owner, Endesa, has accepted the shift away from coal, the Spanish Association of Vehicle and Truck Manufacturers (ANFAC) believe the islands are infringing European law and called their plan “discriminatory and regressive”.
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Francina Armengol, the President of the Balearic Islands, argued that their approach will not only protect the environment, but also its residents, pointing out that: “With our law, we will become more productive and competitive, and strengthen our international image. And most importantly, with this law, we gain in quality of life and seal a guaranteed future for our islands”.
The debate stirring between Armengol and ANFAC is one of many examples of reluctance within the car manufacturing industry and its allies as a response to shifts in attitude regarding fossil-fuel vehicles. As recently as last year, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo was under fire from motorist unions over her plans to entirely ban diesel and petrol cars from city streets by 2024 and 2030 respectively. Despite the criticism, economic pressure is pushing electric cars to be more prevalent worldwide.
Clean Energy Revolution
The European Union includes many islands in territories around the world, in a wide range of climatic conditions. The participants are spread far and wide from the Pacific (New Caledonia) to the Caribbean (Marie-Galante), and from the Atlantic (Azores) to the Baltic Sea (Gotland) as well as the Mediterranean (Crete).
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The clean energy project has already begun to mark a wave of changes across the European Union before the first group of islands has even had a chance to present and enact their transition plans. Despite some barriers to sustainable development and transition to clean energy, the 26 European islands will be leaders in innovation across the world and help drive sustainable development.